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Versatile Haley Melby joining team

Kentucky volleyball got a little lucky but glad to have versatile Haley Melby joining team. Melby was part of 123 high school wins and fell in love with UK immediately.

Craig Skinner knows he got a little bit lucky when he was able to sign Indiana standout Haley Melby in February.

She verbally committed to Iowa during his sophomore high school season in Munster, Ind., but changed her mind her senior season after a coaching change at Iowa and eventually picked UK.

“We watched her as a freshman and sophomore and were excited. Then she committed to Iowa and we stopped watching,” the Kentucky volleyball coach said. “She is an all-around skilled player like some other outside (hitters) we have had. She is talented, hits it really high and is a great competitor.”

Melby was part of 123 high school wins and averaged 3.4 kilos per set her last three seasons. She finished with over 1,300 kills and hit over .360, including .410 as a senior.

Melby, a second-team high school All-American her senior season, said she felt she needed to re-open her recruitment with the changes at Iowa. She felt Iowa was the right choice to keep her close to home.

“With me growing up and wanting to explore my options, I got extremely lucky to find a perfect fit at Kentucky,” Melby said.

She reached out to Skinner after her de-commitment to explain her situation.

“He is good friends with my private lessons coach (Naveed Nizam), my volleyball dad. We are close. I have known him since I was 10 years old,” Melby said. “That helped me make the connection.”

Nizam is a veteran of high school and club volleyball. He’s helped with USA Volleyball and knows a lot of college coaches, including Skinner.

“I opened my recruitment during my senior season and that’s hard for schools (colleges) because they are getting ready for their season and not recruiting a lot,” she said. “That was my dilemma, so I didn’t get a visit set up until after my season ended but the visit was amazing.

“This program is insane. The SEC is such a good conference for volleyball. They have so much to offer in this program. I was happy I got to have conversations with coach Skinner and I love Kentucky.”

She watched every game of Kentucky’s national championship run in the spring of 2021 but had never been to the Kentucky campus until her visit after her senior season.

“I had had conversations with the coaches before and knew I loved them,” Melby said. “There was just a comforting, home feeling when I was there. Being an Indiana kid who lives 25 minutes from Chicago, I had the comfort of a suburban kid but also was a city kid. Lexington was very compatible with that. I also loved the academics. I am going to be a business major and hopefully pursue an MBA while I am there.”

Melby is from a sports family. Her mother was a Division I basketball player at Northern Illinois. Her father played football at the Citadel. Her oldest brother played football in college and she has another brother playing college baseball now.

“I grew up in Big Ten country. I never had a tie to Kentucky but for some reason I always watched Kentucky basketball,” Melby said. “My parents are really excited I am only going to be five hours from home but they also fell in love with the school and coaches.

“I am going to work my butt off to do everything I can to help the team. I know I will grow as a player and do whatever the coaches want. They have had freshmen have incredible success. I just want four years of being the best player I can be. That is my goal to help the team any way I can.”

Melby is a six-rotation player and says “hitting has been natural” to her since she was 5 years old.

“My passing has gotten a little better but can still improve,” she said. “I have always been a jumper. My vertical has grown a good amount in the last year. I have gotten about two inches more on my vertical with my training. I have made myself a higher level volleyball player the last couple of years but I know at Kentucky I will get even better.”

Larry Vaught
Larry Vaught is a seven-time winner of the Kentucky Sportswriter of the Year award and has covered University of Kentucky sports since 1975. Larry now has a syndicated UK sports column appearing in 34 newspapers across the state as well as, and Larry also joins Mark Buerger and Anthony White on WLAP Sunday Morning Sports each week in Lexington as well as appearing each Tuesday with Tom Leach on The Leach Report.

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